A few years ago, I managed to get access to a few tall buildings in Downtown San Jose. In migrating my images from my old Zenfolio account to my present Photoshelter site, I managed to miss most of the “from above” photos taken in 2010.
I don’t know how I managed to miss them, but I was searching for a few of them for another project and their absence came to my attention. On the plus side, reprocessing the same images has some benefits. My Lightroom skills have improved over the last half decade as has Lightroom.
Looking at these images also reminded me I have to update my library. The winter solstice is coming up – perhaps the best time of year to arrange for more such shoots. Usually photographing from somebody else’s building requires a representative to be with me while I work. That’s a bit of a hassle in the summer when twilight is almost bedtime. Plus the smog that typically envelopes the south bay gets washed away semi-regularly in winter.
So no I need to figure out how I can update my picture library. San Jose has been growing and the skyline has changed a lot in the interim. If you know of any residents or property managers at any of the high rises in or around downtown, please hook me up!
To see some of the photos in the Above San Jose series, follow this link: HERE.
It’s kind of like being a Paparazzi- only I’m stalking Google X-projects. Once again I trawled the usual spots looking for that adorable little Google Self Driving Electric Car with the irritated at my presence Googlers inside. Sorry guys, your project is interesting to me and billions of others. Besides, you are testing in a public parking lot!
The car just parked in the same place for a long time. I went out to photograph other stuff in the neighborhood and it still hadn’t moved. Eventually I figured I’d just drive up and get a few closer up shots.
<begin rant>One thing that really gets me….. Google, the folks who sent two security guards to intercept me before I could reach the “Visitor Entrance” to ask if they had tours, the company that sends cars with giant cameras recording huge swathes of things public and private from the roadway….the company that knows more about you and me than the NSA….the company that has more money than god….
Well, they whine and complain when I take photos of them and their very newsworthy Google X project. Mind you I’m not stalking them to be irritating, they are involved in very newsworthy activities, like changing the way the world drives. At the same time they (Google and other extremely wealthy tech companies ) appropriate public spaces for private uses. By now most people have heard of Google and other tech companies using public bus stops in San Francisco and Oakland for their private buses without permits. The defacto control a huge public parking lot weekdays in Mountain View too.
Eventually I moved on to track down some items on my stock photo map of Silicon Valley. I figured somebody is going to have to write about @Walmartlabs at some point, and I had an address for them also in Mountain View. So I headed over to the address I had listed, 444 Castro Street only to find that it’s a huge office building with no signage. Later research showed that Walmart Labs appears to once have been located there, but has moved on. There are plenty of other important and perhaps soon to be important companies at that address, so I reckon this wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Why I keep headed back to Stanford is another question. Don’t I have enough coverage? Apparently not. Technically, Stanford is actually its own place, not part of Palo Alto as I lump them together in my stock photo library.
I tried to get a few shots of the more modern, lesser touristy but more valuable in the stock photo sense, like a few of the laboratory facades, some boring stuff etc before I headed back to the Quad.
It was a good opportunity to try out a new set of equipment I have. My Canon was acting weird which forced me to rush and buy a camera I’ve wanted for some time. The Sony A7r has a few advantages over the Canon that came in handy on this shoot. The obvious are the much larger images – which open up at about 100 mb in Photoshop vs my Canon’s 60 mb. The less obvious is that the EVF is capable of displaying the camera’s level status both left & right as well as up & down. If you want architecturally correct photos, which I usually do, with a shift lens- that’s hard to do without a tripod. No more…. and avoid the tripod gestapo that routinely chase me around.
Now on to the pretty stuff. This reminds me that I should drag “Baby Genius” (my daughter) and her friends out here for a field trip sometime. She seemed to enjoy our trip to the Berkeley campus.
One major reason I think Stanford seems so pleasant isn’t just its retro architecture. The fact that there are basically no cars removes alot of the noise and hubbub that makes people anxious. It makes me wonder what cities were/would be like without car traffic. After the sun went down, but before it was really dark, I strolled past the memorial church. The glow from within matched the light outside and I could faintly hear music practice from inside the “Round Room”. Truth be told, I’m an atheist…but the Memorial Church is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Bay Area as far as I’m concerned.
HP had just acquired Aruba Networks and I figured that would be newsworthy. Also one of my clients pointed out a new park with a view within the city limits of San Jose. With the rain there would finally be a brief window of clean air in the otherwise smoggy Silicon Valley Basin- so I rushed down to take full advantage. I came down with a plethora of tools for a few days of stock shooting: my bicycle, four camera bodies, my panorama machine, a video camera, I never know where these shoots will end up.
Driving down it started to pour by the time I reached Fremont. To kill time I stopped at Weird Stuff Warehouse, a computer surplus store full of antique computer sludge and last year’s crop of gadgets. After that I grabbed a bite at Una Mas right around the corner from Aruba Networks. Then the clouds broke and I went on with the Silicon Valley shtick grabbing my little Sony kit and hopping on my bike (the office parks intentionally bock out public parking).
The rain did in fact temporarily clear the schmutz from the air and I headed up the East Foothills towards the park in question. However, I didn’t make it all the way there, as I found a couple of pull-outs along the way with great views of The Valley below. Recently my Canon 6d started acting up and in a panic I bought Sony A7R. The Sony really proved itself for the dusk stock photos shoots of this sort. Not only is there a whole lot more resolution (36mp vs 21mp), but the dynamic range really shines as the sky goes dark and the city lights twinkle.
So I didn’t manage to make it to the park that evening, but decided to check it out the next morning, if only to get an idea what the value would be for stock photography the next time. Turns out, it has a spectacular view – to quote our former governor “I’ll be back.” But when I was there in the late morning the visibility wasn’t what it could have been. In fact when I looked off the left to the unusually green hills, clouds and light haze, I was reminded back to my travels in my school days in Europe. I could imagine myself being on any old trail in Switzerland, Austria or Germany. Usually our hills our brown and our sky is blue with a dingy brown ring. It was a pleasant change- not that I don’t like the tan and blue hue.
After a morning of conspiring with my dad over coffee- about adding his old slides of San Jose and tech companies from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s to the archive I eventually found my way to Cupertino. Apple is in the process of building their Sir Norman designed Foster Apple Campus II. This is where the bicycle really came in handy. At present, it’s just a huge building site. For those of you not familiar with Silicon Valley, we’re basically just a huge suburban area similar to most North American cities. Many affluent towns never bothered with sidewalks, their residents don’t walk anywhere, they drive. But after decades of stop and go traffic and pressure from environmentalists and their own hipster fixie bike rider employees, there are now bike lanes all over the place. Now using a bike is a critical tool to loop around the 175 acre site. I was able to find one hole in their amazingly high construction fence (wall might be more apt as it’s solid.) And on the other end of the construction site I found another way of seeing past the fence: the bike lane is the only way to stop on that side of the freeway overpass. So I stopped as close as I could to the apex of the unobscured section of road and could get a few clear shots.
Where my bicycle did not come in handy was at my next destination. I rolled up to the Stanford Dish Loop, setup my bike complete with tripod and extra lenses in the paneers and peddled to the entrance. Inside the gate was a long list of rules, including NO BIKES. Pain in the A$$! So I peddled back, rerigged my camera bag with as much as I thought I could practically carry and resumed where I left off. The scenery was amazing: dramatic clouds, nice warm late afternoon winter light. As I slowly schlepped my way along the trail snapping away, I watched fit young college students zip past me. I got a bunch of nice stock shots. What I didn’t get is the way out of the maze that is inappropriately named “loop.” I went to the exit and headed back in what I hoped was the way back to my car. After about an hour of walking in a bike lane as it was getting dark and busy with commute traffic, I finally saw familiar signs that I was on the right path. When I got there I had to “take care of some business” and I think I may have freaked out a young woman as I returned from the bushes next to my car. Ooops.
My feet were killing me. It was time to return to my home base in Downtown San Jose and grab a bite and a beer. Having done some work for the new Whole Foods near downtown, I’ve been itching to try their house brewed beer and grabbed a slice and headed up to the brew room. Oddly enough, I ran into a young man trying to find the end of the line, or at least the etiquette to ordering at the bar. He said he was from Europe, which I almost took as a ploy to jump the line. We ended up chatting and he told me he was from Italy. Opening up, I told him that when I was a bit younger than he was I too was a Student in Europe. “Where” he asked…. And I answered Bodensee/Lake of Constance assuming he’d have no idea what I was talking about. But instead he said he replied he’d studied in Sankt Gallen, right on the other side (Switzerland) from where I was living. He was Italian, but from the small German speaking South Tirol region. Small world I said as we went back and forth in a mix of English, Schweitzerdeutsch and High German. Despite my aching feet, that was a fun and productive evening!
Perhaps the best views of Silicon Valley are from the Historic Lick Observatory. The observatory is high above the valley in the East foothills. Technically it’s still part of San Jose, but the observatory is actually run by the University of California Santa Cruz.
Luckily, I had some clear weather. Silicon Valley’s air quality is usually pretty poor, which makes for a thick layer of smog. The other technical challenge getting a few good stock photos up there is that the wind gusts are amazingly powerful. Fortunately I had a very sturdy tripod.